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Beyond the Bale : March 2013
38 38 38 ON-FARM As the EverGraze Supporting Sites project draws to a close, results from the project have confirmed practice change by producers on more than 200,000 hectares across south-east Australia between 2009 and 2012. These practice changes include alterations to the feedbase through establishing perennials, combined with grazing, soil and livestock management changes, on almost 1500 farms. The Supporting Sites project ran over two phases between 2007 and 2012, with over 50 sites established on producer properties across southern Australia to complement EverGraze research. Each site had a host farm, at least one coordinator, and was associated with a producer group. The EverGraze team, led by Kate Sargeant, Department of Primary Industries Victoria, says the increase in production from Supporting Site participants (2009-12) is estimated to be 556,000 to 797,000 kg extra wool (greasy) for wool enterprises and 573,000 to 820,000 EverGraze Supporting Sites FAST FACTS l The EverGraze Supporting Sites project (from 2009–12) has seen positive environmental and production benefits across more than 200,000ha. l Case studies from EverGraze Supporting Sites reveal increases in ground cover and pasture persistence and reduced weeds and soil loss as a result of engaging in the project. l Associated productivity benefits include increased profits, pasture growth, stocking rates, lamb survival and improved soil fertility. kg extra wool (greasy) for prime lamb enterprises, from making feedbase and grazing management changes. “Changes in the feedbase on wool enterprises resulted in an increase of 32kg/ ha (408,000kg) while their changes to grazing management resulted in additional increases of between 7kg/ha and 17kg/ha (160,000-400,000kg),” Kate said. “On prime lamb enterprises, feedbase changes resulted in an increase of 26kg/ ha (407,806kg) while grazing management changes resulted in increases of between 6kg/ha and 14kg/ha (165,000-412,000kg). “Our analysis, combined with data from the Lifetimewool project, indicated that changes to sheep management would result in about an extra 10 per cent lambs (46,000) weaned.” Almost all Supporting Sites reported that perennials had persisted as a result of putting EverGraze’s Right Plant, Right Place, Right Purpose, Right Management principle into action. Density of native grasses had also increased on some sites due to a combination of management practices and season. Documented environmental benefits included increases in ground cover, pasture persistence, reduced weeds and reduced soil loss, which demonstrated that the dual- benefit target had been met. RETURN ON INVESTMENT Data collected from the Supporting Sites made it possible to conduct a rough economic analysis on investment in pasture establishment using the EverGraze Pasture Improvement Calculator. “From 19 paddocks established across 12 farms in north-east and south-west Victoria, the average cost of establishing perennial pasture in 2009 was $450/ha (ranging from March 2013 BEYOND THE BALE $263–$757/ha),” Kate said. “The increase in average stocking rate, as a result of the improved pastures and associated management (compared to unimproved controls), was 9.4 DSE/ha (1.4 -21 DSE/ha). The average return on investment (including investment in extra sheep) was 32 per cent and the payback period ranged from three to 10 years with an average of six years.” There were three examples of run-down old sown paddocks that were improved with fertiliser, weed control and grazing management. These paddocks returned similar or better return on investment to the newly-established paddocks. There were also three examples where sown pastures were run as a system (with several paddocks containing a range of summer-active and winter-active species). “The systematic approach influenced the gross margin per DSE, by allowing stock to be carried for longer and finished at a higher price or by allowing a finishing enterprise to be run instead of breeding stock,” Kate said. “This demonstrates how the returns on investment could be achieved more quickly by putting EverGraze principles into action. “By understanding costs and potential returns from investments in pastures and infrastructure associated with Supporting Sites, groups and their coordinators are better equipped to make decisions on their own farms.” EverGraze is a Future Farm Industries CRC research and delivery partnership, funded by AWI, Meat & Livestock Australia, DPI Vic, DPI NSW, DAFWA and Charles Sturt University. The Supporting Sites project was funded by Caring for Our Country and administered by Central Highlands Agribusiness Forum from 2009–12 . In general, the number of perennial pasture species increased over time. While the improved seasons contributed to this, the fertiliser, herbicide and grazing in each paddock were the most influential factors. COST COMPARISON Despite the differences in the landscape between the three paddocks, and the various constraints of the grazing strategies, the results revealed the relative benefits of pasture rejuvenation. Because phalaris still existed in the old phalaris paddock, it was more cost- effective to rejuvenate the pasture with fertiliser, weed control and strategic grazing than to sow a new pasture. Where the phalaris didn’t exist in the higher part of the paddock, utilising the high fertility from the stock camp and establishing a new pasture was the best option. More information: • The full case study of the Creightons Creek Supporting Site, including a detailed economic analysis for this site, is available on the EverGraze website at www. evergraze.com.au/fact-sheets.htm • Bindi Hunter, EverGraze Communications Officer, (03) 5561 9909, Bindi.Hunter@dpi.vic.gov.au